1. Launching Neighborhoods Now: Forward

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    Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute Launch New Cycle of Neighborhoods Now, Pandemic Recovery Initiative

    Supported by a grant from Wells Fargo, seven community-based teams will lead long-term recovery at the neighborhood scale

    Contact: Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications,

    (New York City—March 17, 2022) — The Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute announce a new cycle of Neighborhoods Now, their initiative launched in spring 2020 to support local NYC organizations leading their communities’ pandemic recovery. Under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative will extend through the end of 2022 and transition from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Across four boroughs, teams are led by the 82nd Street Partnership; Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown; Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; Community League of the Heights; FABnyc; and the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition. Building on the lasting partnerships forged over the past two years, these community partners will collaborate with architecture, design, economic development, legal, and planning firms. 14 firms are continuing their engagement with the initiative; firms new to the initiative include Barretto Consulting, Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, Dash Marshall, HLW Architects, Gehl Studio, MA’AM, NHDM, Smart Design, and The Working Assembly.

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward is made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund. With yearlong funding in place, each team is developing projects to build long-term resiliency in neighborhood economies. To strengthen learnings across communities, teams will also meet up throughout the year to exchange their experiences and spark creativity.

    Neighborhoods Now started as a design sprint, and it’s evolved — beyond our wildest expectations — into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “We’re immensely grateful to Wells Fargo for making this level of strategic planning possible by recognizing that communities need to drive their own recovery and futures.”

    “Collaborating with our brilliant community partners has reassured me that the future of New York City is bright,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum. “We are delighted that our members are continuing to help small businesses and cultural organizations recover from the pandemic and thrive.”

    “Working with Neighborhoods Now and the Wells Fargo team has been a great support and opportunity for Bed-Stuy Gateway BID,” said Ms. Dale Charles, Executive Director, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID. “These relationships have allowed us to engage, support, and give opportunities to the small businesses of our commercial corridors struggling because of COVID-19. This process has brought the community together in so many ways, culminating in our annual Winter Wonderland holiday market.”

    “Last year, through the process of developing our Vision Plan with the Neighborhoods Now team, FABnyc was able to think deeply about how we could bring together three goals — supporting local cultural organizations, activating public spaces, and advancing cultural equity — into a single vision,” said Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director, FABnyc. “I’m very excited this year to be creating tools with our team to move that plan forward, building our capacity to activate public space, collaborate with community partners, and engage local artists and cultural organizations.”

    “We are excited to embark on a new phase of Neighborhoods Now to build upon our Chinatown Nights festival to make it into a sustained cultural night market for Chinatown and beyond,” said Thomas Yu, Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality.

    Added Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown, “Working together with neighboring organizations and designers has catalyzed rooted change that can be seen in our free cultural programming. The spirit of Neighborhoods Now shines at Chinatown Nights.”

    “New York’s small businesses and cultural organizations have been hit especially hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and neighborhoods where many business owners, entrepreneurs and employees live and work have been severely affected,” said Catherine Domenech, Senior Social Impact & Sustainability Specialist at Wells Fargo. “Now more than ever, we are actively investing in the communities we serve and providing meaningful support and resources for the places that need it the most. Wells Fargo is proud to partner with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute on the Neighborhoods Now initiative, which will help many New Yorkers get back on their feet and accelerate their communities’ pandemic recovery.”

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward Teams and Projects


    Community lead: 82nd Street Partnership

    Team: n-architects; SO-IL; MA’AM; NHDM

    The Jackson Heights team will create a roadmap for the 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic. Jackson Heights’ Dunningham Triangle is at the center of this goal, envisioned as a safer, welcoming space for children and families that encourages foot traffic to nearby small businesses.


    Community leads: Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown (T!C)

    Team: Joseph J. Barretto, Barretto Consulting; di Domenico + Partners; Leroy Street Studio; The Working Assembly

    The Chinatown team will expand the night market Chinatown Nights — launched at Forsyth Plaza in 2021 with support of Neighborhoods Now — through new community outreach and a redesign to accommodate a wider array of food and arts vendors. They will also work with designers to transform a vacant storefront owned by AAFE into a cultural workshop space for T!C’s ongoing public programming, gathering and organizing work for the Chinatown community.


    Community lead: Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Team: Moody Nolan; Dash Marshall

    The Gateway BID team will build on Winter Wonderland, an open-air holiday market supporting local small businesses launched through Neighborhoods Now. After two successful pilot markets in 2020 and 2021, the BID hopes to build this event into a hallmark of holiday activities in Central Brooklyn that strengthens Bed-Stuy’s social cohesion.

    Community lead: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration)

    Team: Farzana Gandhi Design Studio; James Corner Field Operations; KPF

    The Restoration team will develop new financial and spatial resources for the Brooklyn Business Center (BBC) at Restoration, in order to support small businesses in Brooklyn and build BBC’s capacity to share compelling success stories that inspire other local entrepreneurs.


    Community lead: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC)

    Team: Dattner Architects; Scalar Architecture

    The Kingsbridge team aims to complete a neighborhood assessment to understand the current challenges and long-term opportunities for small businesses and tenants along Kingsbridge Avenue & Jerome Avenue. The assessment will lead into an action plan to support the community and avoid displacement, centering the community at each phase of the process.


    Community lead: FABnyc

    Team: DLR Group, Marvel, Smart Design

    Having completed FABnyc’s 20/20 Vision Plan through Neighborhoods Now, the Lower East Side team aims to strengthen existing and new sites for cultural activity. They aim to build on existing Open Streets programming, expand the Open Arts Lower East Side event to build sustainability, and create long-term strategic plans for new sites and platforms.


    Community lead: Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)

    Team: Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, HLW

    The Washington Heights team will conduct a needs assessment of businesses to help create a thriving and vibrant commercial corridor. The team will also provide technical support for small businesses who need to update their facades and improve their interior layouts.


    As needs arise, legal firm Fried Frank, community development and research firm Gehl Studio, and graphic design studio Pentagram will support each team.

    About Urban Design Forum

    Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront the defining issues facing New York City’s built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more dynamic and democratic city.

    See all work at

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at

  2. The Working Assembly

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    The Working Assembly is a branding and creative agency helping companies grow, shift, and evolve.

    We get excited about powerful ideas that have the ability to shape brands.

    We provide boutique quality at scale with an integrated approach, focusing on end-to-end brand building inclusive of strategy, verbal and visual identity, content and creative communications.
    Our team is successfully challenging the traditional rift between advertising and design by bringing siloed disciplines like branding, campaigns and digital into a holistic brand presence.

    We specialize in key inflection points—from helping companies take a thoughtful next step, to a total strategic reinvention.

  3. N H D M

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    N H D M is a New York-based practice for design and research in architecture and urbanism, founded by its partners Nahyun Hwang and David Eugin Moon. The studio pursues an expanded practice of architecture and works across disciplinary borders engaging a wide range of scales and diverse modes of practice, from built design work to speculative projects and research. Each project uniquely investigating underexplored spatial concepts in the context of the cultural, political, and economic complexities of the contemporary built environment, the work aims to be introspective and analytic yet anticipatory.

    N H D M recently completed a 12,000 sf renovation of Nam June Paik Art Center, and the current projects include an 18,000 sf museum in Manhattan and a 7-story co-living prototype for marginalized youth combined with municipal educational institutions. The work of N H D M has been recognized through numerous publications and awards including 2020 Architectural Record Design Vanguard Award, 2019 Domus 100+ Best Architects, the 2018 AIANY New Practices New York award, the 2012, 2014, and 2018 AIANY Design Honor Awards, the I.D. Annual Design Review Design Distinction, and has been exhibited and presented at global venues including 2021 Venice Biennale (forthcoming), 2019 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, the 5th and 6th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, and the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at 2014 Venice Biennale, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Center for Architecture New York, UMMA Stenn Gallery, and the Hartell Gallery among others. N H D M’s work has been supported by the Graham Foundation Grant and New York State Council of Art Grant.

  4. MA’AM

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    At MA’AM our creative focus is branding, but our process begins with people.

    Whether we’re designing start-up campaigns or conceptualizing Fortune 500 identities, we start each partnership by connecting with the people behind the vision.

    Placing relationships at the center of creation facilitates an authentic exchange, inspiring beautiful and distinct solutions that seamlessly balance aesthetics and objectives. And by dreaming, building, and iterating together, we remain grounded in a brand’s unique values and purpose.

  5. HLW

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    We are a full service architecture, interiors, strategy, planning & sustainability firm.

    Our mission at HLW is to question the norm, design with passion, and build what’s next. We were established in 1885 and have continuously evolved to stay at the forefront of architecture and design. From designing the first dedicated telephone building in New York City to our current work with mega tech companies, HLW has a legacy of combining elegant aesthetics with innovative technologies.

  6. Dash Marshall

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    Dash designs spaces around human ritual and routine. We create environments, objects, and experiences that help people write new stories.

    Dash thinks that the built environment should serve the individuals, families, organizations, and communities living within. The built environment should help you live, work, and play the way that you want to. It should be designed to fit the needs and quirks of communities. It should be joyous and inspired.

    We built a multi-disciplinary design studio so that we can work towards this ambition in the most effective way possible, from the design of spaces to strategies, and everything in between. Dash Marshall was named Next Progressive in ARCHITECT Magazine July 2020 as well as AN Interiors Top 50 firm for 2020 and 2021. We keep our desks clean and our pencils sharp.

  7. BJH Advisors

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    BJH Advisors LLC (BJH) is a real estate advisory and planning firm with expertise in financial and market analytics, tax policy, community development, infrastructure and urban planning, project management, public private partnerships, incentives, and public funding strategies. Our principals and staff are a diverse team of former government officials, economists, attorneys, planners, and consultants with a deep commitment to improving the communities we work in.

  8. Barretto Consulting

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    Barretto Consulting provides organizational and fundraising strategies that help nonprofits build their capacity, ensure their sustainability, and maximize their impact.

    Joseph J. Barretto is a management strategist with 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. His expertise includes organizational and fundraising strategy and leadership development, with a focus on building the capacity and ensuring the sustainability of organizations to maximize their impact.

    Joseph’s focus on providing nonprofit boards and leaders with the management tools and strategies necessary to strengthen their organizations was honed by his experiences in various management roles, including Deputy Director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Deputy Executive Director at Hudson Guild, and Executive Director at The DOME Project, an education-focused nonprofit serving at-risk youth. In addition to consulting assignments in organizational assessments and strategic planning initiatives, fundraising campaigns, and board development, Joseph facilitates leadership and fundraising workshops and trainings to nonprofit managers and board members.

    Joseph is an Affiliate Consultant at Community Resource Exchange and sits on the Selection Committee for The New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Filipino American Human Services, Inc., and serves on the National Advisory Board for Public Service at Harvard College and the Advisory Board of Trestle Gallery.

    Joseph holds a BA from Harvard College and an MPA degree from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.

  9. Beyer Blinder Belle

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    Beyer Blinder Belle was founded in 1968, in the wake of the urban renewal movement in the United States, when the social fabric of cities, communities, and buildings was compromised by the prevailing attitudes about planning and architecture. We pioneered and defined a different approach to the design of the built environment that focused on architecture empowering people — their interaction with each other on streets and in neighborhoods, their pleasure in moving through the city, and their connections to the surrounding physical fabric.

    This mission has guided us for more than five decades and has shaped a broad and award-winning practice — now 190 professionals in New York City, Washington, DC and Boston engaged in architecture, planning, and interiors. A persistent exploration of historic, cultural and civic meaning guides our work, while our design is contemporary and reflects the materials and technology of today.

    Planning, restoration and the design of new buildings are the fundamental underpinnings of our practice. Many of our projects involve the stewardship of historic buildings in sensitive urban sites — the work for which we have become best recognized. Our deep sense of identity and evolving perspectives on design have guided our practice in new construction as well as master planning and urban design. With our clients and friends, we continue the dialogue.


  10. Gehl Studio

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    Gehl Studio is the US based practice of Gehl Architects, with offices in San Francisco and New York. The Studio team is engaged with clients and projects within all the Gehl Services from Canada, the US, Latin and South America. Having established Studios in the US has enabled us to do more of what we love most, to work face to face and on a daily basis with our local clients and collaborators. We are able to jointly tackle and prioritize the needs of people in the planning and design of cities, districts, communities, streets and spaces, to make a bigger impact and to go further in the design process.